Best Neighborhood Movie Theater - 2004
Back before the monolithic octoplex darkened the cinematic landscape, every proudly individual San Francisco neighborhood had its own movie theater. But like the fabled Market Street movie palaces of yore, most of these anchoring icons are either extinct or endangered (although the excellent Castro is an enduring genre unto itself). One happy exception is the Balboa, which has been hosting Outer Richmond moviegoers since 1926. Owner and movie stalwart Gary Meyer presents double features of (relatively) new flicks for a mere $7.50 (free if it's your birthday). Snacks include Aidell's sausages, Caffe Trieste coffee, and, of course, freshly popped popcorn with real butter and your choice of seasonings (Parmesan-garlic among them). Gift certificates benefit Children's Hospital of Oakland, the intermission music is very cool and eclectic, and every February there's a birthday party for the old place with the screening of a classic silent film with live musical accompaniment, onstage vaudeville, short subjects, door prizes, and cake for everybody. As of this writing a structural retrofit was in progress, but the movies continue to unspool as they have since the silent era, a dozen blocks from the ocean and far, far away from the Metreon.